WASHINGTON – Four Muslim nonprofit groups have rejected Federal government’s funds granted to fight extremism, citing President Donald Trump’s unfair rhetoric targeting Islam and Muslims.
“We have and will continue to work with our government where there is no conflict of interest, but given the anti-Muslim actions of the current executive branch, we cannot in good conscience accept this grant,” Bayan Claremont, a private Islamic graduate school in California, said in a statement cited by The Independent.
The school announced Friday that it would reject $800,000 that it had proposed be used for a two-year project called Flourishing Communities to “improve interreligious cooperation, civic engagement, and social justice.”
The groups had been among the 31 recipients of the first round of Countering Violent Extremism grants, awarded by the Department of Homeland Security in the last week of Barack Obama’s presidency.
The funds were intended to go to programs that curtailed recruitment and radicalization efforts by foreign groups, such as Isis, as well as domestic ones like white supremacists.
Seeing Trump’s rhetoric as opposite to their missions, at least four groups have rejected the funding.
Ka Joog, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit group that supports Somali American youth, said in a statement on 1 February that it would decline its $499,998 CVE grant because the Trump administration and their policies promoted “hate, fear, uncertainty and even worse; an unofficial war on Muslim-Americans and Immigrants.”
The decision was not an easy one, Ka Joog executive director Mohamed Farah told CBS News.
“It all came down to principle,” Farah told the station.
“$500,000 is a lot of money, especially if you are a nonprofit. But at the end of the day, we work with immigrants, we work with refugees, we work with Muslims. And we believe that this new administration is against everything that we stand for. For that reason, we decided to really alienate ourselves from the ideologies that are coming from this administration.”
Along with Trump’s executive order banning immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, Reuters reported in early February that the Trump administration wanted to rename the Countering Violent Extremism program to “Countering Islamic Extremism” or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism,” removing the focus on domestic groups like white supremacists.
The reported shift was met with alarm by Muslim groups that had already been wary of the program.
“That is concerning for us because they are targeting a faith group and casting it under a net of suspicion,” Hoda Hawa, director of policy for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, told Reuters.
Christian Picciolini, the co-founder of Life After Hate and a former member of a neo-Nazi group, shared similar concerns.
“… it sends a message that white extremism does not exist, or is not a priority in our country, when in fact it is a statistically larger and more present terror threat than any by foreign or other domestic actors,” he told the AP.